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Prepare for College with these 10 Helpful Resources

Updated on February 13, 2017
EdTecher profile image

Heidi Reina, M.S., Ed, is an educational technology integrator and former teacher, reviewing free educational websites and apps.

Image of Brunswick High School graduation in Georgia
Image of Brunswick High School graduation in Georgia | Source

Standout College Websites with Advice, Planning, and Financial Aid

You don't need to pay hundreds of dollars for college planning courses. There are many excellent websites that can help you with life after high school and all parts of college planning.

Practice for the SAT, ACT, or PSAT. Choose a college OR have a college apply to YOU. Submit your college application online. Get tips on writing college application essays. Learn about extracurricular activities that can help. Participate in forums where you can learn from other parents and students who've been-there-done-that.

A few of the sites below offer other fee-based services. I point you to the parts of their websites that have valuable free services to help you or your child.

And while many websites provide lots of different types of college services, most excel in just a few areas. I describe which features of each website are likely to be the most helpful to you.

The information on these sites will help you make very well informed decisions about your or your child's college preparation needs and choices. It's never too soon to start. Look through the four-year planner at as soon as your kid is a high school freshman. And you can start saving for your child's college using Upromise at any time -- the earlier, the better!

College Student Aid

More Funding for Pell Grants and Revised Student Loan Provisions

Recent changes to federal laws and regulations provide for more federal college student loans instead of private bank loans. This is estimated to save $68 billion over the next several years in the cost of attending college, and it will help ease the pressure funding college for you and your children. For complete details, go to the Federal Student Aid website. Here's what's key:

  • There will be more PELL grants available.
  • The federal government will give and administer student loans instead of banks.
  • Income-based repayment (IBR) plan - If your student loan debt is high relative to your income and family size, your loan payments can be income-adjusted to 10% of your income, if you choose.
  • Public service workers such as teachers and nurses pay for up to 10 years, then the rest of the loan is forgiven. Everyone else makes payments up to 20 years, then the rest of the loan is forgiven.

by American Education Systems is a comprenhsive resource for all aspects of college planning. This is the place to go if you or your child needs assistance to:

  • Decide on a career path
  • Choose a college
  • Apply to colleges
  • Test for college
  • Find financial assistance and scholarships
  • Keep track of what to do and when

Starting in the freshman year, the high school timeline checklist provides a broader overview of tasks your child should undertake during each of the next four years to prepare for college.

Another standout tool is the interactive Career Key. It incorporates your child's interests and personality, using Holland Types, to suggest several career paths. There's also a database of careers and descriptions to help your child learn about various careers' requirements for experience, knowledge, skills and abilities, and their salary prospects.

Federal Student Aid website
Federal Student Aid website

Federal Student Aid at

by U.S. Department of Education

This site is designed with the asssistance of students who have gone through the process, and know the types of information most needed by students. The emphasis is on breaking down the process so it is not overwhelming, and on providing inspiration. provides guidance for parents and teachers as well. There are links to excellent free government resources. These resources are designed to help parents guide their children through college preparation and financing.

Inspirational Stories of Finding the Right College

Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges--and Find Themselves
Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges--and Find Themselves

Getting to the college goal line is a process of identifying your passions, finding colleges that match those passions, and making yourself stand out from the crowd when applying to the college(s) you want.

These inspirational stories illustrate how to get it done... whether your goal is Harvard or the local state college, whether you're an average student or the straight-A National Honor Society member.

College Navigator website
College Navigator website

College Navigator

U.S. Department of Education

For an impartial and thorough college search, try the College Navigator. The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics has created this website to provide a comprehensive database of colleges.

When you register, you can build a list of schools you wish to consider, do side-by-side comparisons, and export your customized results to a spreadsheet. Your session, with the options and choices you make, can be saved on the site for future reference as well.

Your search criteria can include specific states, distance from a specified zip code, type of degree offered, public or private institution, and major(s).

There's also a link to the site for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, the premier site for student financial assistance.

Peterson's College Planner website
Peterson's College Planner website

Peterson's College Planner

by Peterson's, a Nelnet Company

Peterson's College Planner has tools for college planning, finding a school, test prep, and scholarships and loans.

This site's biggest strength is the Prepare for Tests section. They offer a variety of materials and online services for a price.

But before you pay... you'll see that they offer a FREE full-length practice test for SAT, ACT and PSAT/NMSQT. Other tests available for a fee include AP and SAT subject area. There's also lots of good test-taking tips and strategies.



by, LLC

Cappex takes a different approach to your college search. You fill out a profile and contact information on their website, including interests, desired major, high school activities, GPA, etc. Then the colleges come looking for you.

You choose which colleges can contact you to "recruit" you as a perspective student. There are more than 1,700 public and private colleges and universities registered with the Cappex system. The site is fairly new, but already nearly 900 colleges have contacted students.

College Confidential forum
College Confidential forum

College Confidential

A great forum for parents and students

The most active discussion forum for all kinds of college issues and advice is College Confidential. The main strength of the site is that most of the information found here is compiled by users of the site -- from the forums to the college visits and reviews.

The main forums include college admissions and search, pre-college issues (including high school), professional and graduate school, and the website community. There are a couple million posts and hundreds of topics.

High school parents and students will find lots of valuable tips and advice from others who have preceded you. Topics on test prep, financial aid, college admissions and search are among the most popular.

It's not just the contributions of students and parents that make this site worthwhile. College Confidential has also written several articles and provided links to still more on topics ranging from college rankings to financial aid.



from Sallie Mae

College funding options are not limited to just scholarships and loans. You can join UPromise and save for college. It offers parents, family members and friends a way to help fund a child's college education through their daily purchases.

After you register on the Upromise website, your use the participating merchants, local grocers and restaurants. A current list of participating merchants and the percentage of your purchase they contribute to your child's Upromise account is shown here. You can keep the money in the Upromise account or transfer it to a partnered 529 account.

If your child is already in college, you can still participate. The money in the account can be used to pay down a qualifying student loan or to pay for college expenses.

The earlier you sign up, the more savings you accumulate. I've used it for my daughter for 12 years and have more than $4,500 in deposits and investment dividends -- just by using store and online merchants, grocers and restaurants I patronize regularly.

The savings can be tremendously more significant if you invite relatives and friends to participate. Again, it costs them nothing extra. When they register and designate your child as the receiver, purchases they make will also result in savings deposits to your child's Upromise account. is arguably the best college scholarship search engine available online. It has been recommended by Forbes and the California Student Aid Commission.

Youregister and fill out an extensive questionnaire so you can find scholarships appropriate to your situation. I recommend you opt out of marketing emails, affiliates and third party offers.

For all the hard work up front, though, you are rewarded with a list of scholarships tailored to your child's eligibility requirements. Quite a time saver in the end.


FinAid! Financial Aid, College Scholarships and Student Loans

by, a Monster Company

FinAid! excels at describing in detail the types of financial aid, scholarships and loans available to students.

There are tips on filling out FAFSA, descriptions of the most widely used loan programs, information on savings and section 529 college savings plans, and a guide to military student aid.

You can also access a wide array of financial calculators for college cost projection, savings plans' yields, loan payments, needs analysis and budgeting.

In a section titled Beyond Financial Aid, there are links to other student services offered by Monster, Inc. If you're looking for a job or internship, try their link to


for college students looking for government internships and recent college graduates

There's nothing like on-the-job training and experience to help your child earn money, test drive a career, and add to a resume. is an excellent place for college and graduate students to search for internships that will help them gain that experience.

There are more than 27,000 jobs to search through by location and occupation. Students can apply, post their resumes online, and receive automated job alerts when they create a free online account.

What advice do you have for college bound high school students?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      If it can teach you important skllis that you can walk away with then it may be worth a shot, but I think I would hire someone who came from a standard Uni before an online one.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I remember being in high school and being overwhelmed with all of the information that was presented to me. I didn't know where to start and some of the information went over my head. Sometimes, I thought I was doing the right thing, only to spend hours trying to figure it out to learn that I did it wrong. Yes, college planning can be expensive, however, what is more important to you--- time or money? confusion or simplicity? I've seen a lot of students do what they thought was right because they read something on a website when in reality they might have misunderstood what was being said. In the end, getting bad advice or no advice at all can cost greatly: extra time spent in school (did you realize most students are graduating in 5 or 6 years now and not 4? This is due to bad advice and/or lack of advice) and if you are spending extra time in school, you are also spending extra money. Check out some tips that I have at

      Or, I also provide free tips at

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Some wonderful information in this article. It's nice to find all of these resources in one place.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      5 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I enjoyed this lens. There are some really good links on it! ::::blessed::::

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Get a high score on the ACT test and qualify for more scholarships....

    • EducationInfo4U1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens! I remember going to college and having so many questions, but the above pointers are very helpful to new college students. I recommend for students to do stay motivated in college, enjoy, learn, make connections, and have a balanced lifestyle. Thanks for sharing :)

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Paying for college these days is quite a challenge. That UPfromise programs is really neat!

    • bechand profile image


      7 years ago

      got some good info here - i am sure it would be helpful to new students ! I am still working on paying off my loans ... got about 3 more years - graduated in 97 with masters degree... seems like been payin forever !

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent resources for those with college in their future. By the sounds of the rising costs for college, its good to leap in as soon as possible. A community college is a good place to start for many with smaller classes and more access to instructors as well as perhaps a little less cost, particularly if you can live at home rather than having housing costs added in.

    • ResJes profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      If you can, apply to as many colleges as you can. Keep your head up - someone will accept you. :)

    • Teddi14 LM profile image

      Teddi14 LM 

      7 years ago

      Due Diligence! Ask for help and advice from others who have recently finished college.

    • lobrieng profile image


      7 years ago

      Research is very important in determining your "College List" and this site has great suggestions for research engines. Use the internet wisely and try to visit colleges once you narrow down your list of best fit schools for you!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      7 years ago

      choose a course that your really, really like. btw, awesome lens.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Send letters to every school that sends you a letter. You will stand out and it may lead to further invitations.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Visit for useful info!

    • Adriana Daniela profile image


      7 years ago from New Market

      No advice yet, but this lens is very helpful. My daughter is heading to college in a couple of year and this is great information.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      My advice would be: Make sure to think about what would make you happy, vs. what just makes money when it comes to selecting a future job. This is a neat lens with lots of information!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image


      7 years ago

      Lots of good info here. Well done. And we collected some advice on our college and grad student lenses, gleaned from our years in the meat grinder, if anyone would like to have a gander. Cheers.

    • brittanyshaf profile image


      7 years ago

      another great site that I use is . i am getting ready for college and have found that website super helpful as it matches me up with scholarships, and helps me find colleges.

    • polymathlv lm profile image

      polymathlv lm 

      7 years ago

      I didn't realize there were so many great websites that compared colleges! I just went to the government's site you mentioned in the lens:

      Who knew the government could produce something useful like that? :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is definitely a great scholarship resource that I can reference back to when applying for scholarships for college. There are plenty of scholarships available and must students don't even consider applying for them.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      No, money comes from people.

      Priority should be given to Student Loans, because education is an investment in the success of its society. While I am 100% for health care reform in the states, the funds needed are pure cost with no real investment in the society as a whole.

      People without a college education are less important than those with one? The people within the debt collection business provide a valuable and necessary service.

      People who invest in lenders who then in turn provide loans to people with expectation the loans will be repaid. The repayment provides income for the lender as well as a return for investors.

      Itâs not glamorous, but there are hundreds of thousands of hard working people who provide for their family by filling that need.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Very good resource. Thank you for adding it (and the other lenses) to my "Squidoo Lenses That Don't Sell a Thing."

    • alohaitsaj profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome lens! If you get a chance, check out mine on personal finance tips for college students.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Lens ... all information is nearly complete. Please come to my Top Us Colleges page to see more info around US Colleges.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      9 years ago

      Great information, and timely too, as everyone looks for ways to save money on education! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is an excellent Lens! Great List of resources for college admissions!

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 

      9 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Great resource lens. I blessed it. :)

    • TheInfamous7 profile image


      9 years ago

      An Excellent Lens!!..Great Work!


    • TheLeftFitz profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow. This is a seriously fantastic lens. Welcome to the College & Universities group!


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